"Don't threaten me. DON'T YOU THREATEN ME!" My inner Sharon Stone chafes a crotch feather while kicking through her Casino powder-room door. I'm writhing out my histrionic calisthenics in the front seat of Alan's giant gold Cadillac in preparation for the worst. Somebody better call FEMA because I'm about to flush.
Having recently spit up the semi-liquefied epiphany that everything I see as wrong in Orlando is actually a cruel projection of everything wrong with myself (Artless? Check. Superficial? Double-check. Lacking history? Check the impotence of my history degree), I figured a momentary relocation of the vacation variety was in order; some other locale more severe where I could pilfer a different shade of self-criticism to add to my failure decoupage. And where better to be hard on myself than in the Big Easy?
"Why are all the trees upside down?" I work up some nonsensical Tennessee Williams monologue. "They're like the twiggy, mangled legs of crestfallen prostitutes plucked at by the savage birds of life's godless cruelty; twice-pillaged dirty love remains, left in still life portraiture in the wake of the inevitable scavenger satiation — and its consequent creeping boredom — stewing in the pea-soup fog of the apocalypse. Oh, my."
"There's a rest area," Alan unplugs his right ear. "You want me to butt-fuck you in a rest area rest room?"
I'm not really sure what we're doing here; literally, what are we going to do here? Sure, I can already taste the plastic-cupped liquor swishing from cheek to cheek to the wobbly advisement of my comfort-free shoes as they blister their way down Bourbon Street. But beyond inebriated transit, I have no real plans of where they'll be aching to. The journey is implied; it's the destination that's up in the air.
Alan, however, is harboring an agenda, one that's growing increasingly apparent as we arrive at the Pontchartrain Hotel. If I stare really hard at the side of his head, take a flask swig and bite my tongue, I swear I can see his ear spinning like a roulette wheel and his eyes losing their standard hue of boyfriend derision and adopting the playful characters of slot machine random image generation.
"I'm not gambling," I rattle like a handful of poker chips. "I am not a shawled old lady with a nickel-slot penchant."
"Heh, heh," he jackpots otherwise.
We hail a cab down to Bourbon Street as if to just get it out of the way and end up at the historied gay corner of the 800 block. This is where, legend has it, a crotchety and queer Tennessee Williams delirium tremens-ed about dying turtles and bone-burning sunlight while young boys presumably serviced his poetic license underneath the bar. Me, I'm at a loss for words. Overhead on a flat-screen at the Bourbon Pub/Parade (a two-faced gay hole), a red-headed drag queen is re-enacting the sacred anthemry of Heart's "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You," getting knocked up in a convertible by a straight-acting rent boy.
"Where you guys from?" a giant male nurse named Chuck, still in his scrubs, takes a moment away from his fifth beer to Cajun-cruise Alan and I. "You've been together six years? So you met when you were, what, 20?"
"Fourteen," I scalpel.
In general, Bourbon Street is eerily quiet, like one might expect in the throes of PTSD, or while approximating the toxic shock of the world's largest Summer's Eve. Our other tourist-map exploits will be similarly serene: the World War II Museum (a cheery walk through suffering), the Confederate Museum (ditto) and along the downtown river docks. We'll play momentarily hip for a bit and shop our way down the tchotchkes of Magazine Street, even locating the one boutique featured in USA Today for its troubles with trannie panty raids. But there's always the inevitable gambling chip on Alan's shoulder.
"OK, we can gamble," I relent. "But only if you'll rest-stop butt-fuck me on the way home."
"Don't you threaten me," Alan steals my part. More talk of me cat-butting him in bed this morning, trying to scare him into my fraidy hole by way of my lady parts follows, and I scorn myself back into a coke-addled Sharon Stone in slingbacks, a fur coat and nothing else.
"I hate you," and we're off.
At Harrah's, a casino midway unfurls before us, complete with stumbling morning drunks and an impressive number of walkie-talkied hardline staffers guiding them through. I hunch my shoulders in front of a "Sizzling 7 Times" slot machine and wait for my shawl, my drink and my goiter, while Alan high-rolls over to the craps table. After about 400 cherries, 700 bars and a couple of sevens, I finally hit pay dirt. Somehow I sizzle out $55 off a quarter and I start to get that gambler's gaze of obsessive system-beating. So much so that I have to pee.
In the bathroom, at Harrah's faucet (ha!), a black kid heads from the urinal back into a stall. Seconds later, a lighter flicks and the peculiar wheeze and stench of crack-pipe hilarity echoes off the tiles.
I giggle, head back to my trusty slot machine and lose $70; like doing drugs but without the high, really. I hit the bar to credit-card a drink because I don't have any more cash, and a nice lady, a dark angel in a doo-rag, offers to get it for me, saying, "I've already lost $4,000 in here today," to which I cheerily reply, "Yeah, well I've lost $70 (wink, wink)."
"I need more money," I tap Alan on his crapping shoulder.
"No," he says, hiding his $250 booty and not smiling.
"Give me the money or I'll take the kids and move in with Joe Pesci!"
"And I won't care," he rolls again.
"Um, did you just threaten me? Don't you …."firstname.lastname@example.org